Text: Text: Anonymous, “Poe and ‘The Raven’,” Mail and Express (New York, NY), April 21, 1900, p. 1, cols. 5-6


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[column 5, top:]

POE AND “THE RAVEN”

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Circumstances Recounted to Prove Where He Wrote Poem.

GEN. O’BEIRNE GAVE DETAILS

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Declared the Verses Were Written at the Brennan Homestead on Eighty-fourth Street, and Not in the Fordham Cottage.

“In spite of the oft-repeated story that Edgar Allan Poe composed his masterpiece, ‘The Raven,’ in the Poe cottage, at Fordham, the most indisputable tradition proves that the poem was written while Poe was spending the summer at the homestead of Patrick Brennan, father of Deputy Commissioner Thomas S. Brennan, of the Department of Charities and Correction,” said Gen. James R. O’Beirne, a brother-in-law of the Commissioner, to a party of friends a few nights ago.

“Edgar Allan Poe,” continued Gen. O’Beirne, “spent the summers of 1843 and 1844 at the homestead of my father-in-law. I have frequently heard the story from my wife’s lips, who was about 10 years old when she became acquainted with the great poet. In those days, more than half a century ago, Patrick Brennan owned a farm of 216 acres, extending from a point about 200 feet east of Central Park West to the Hudson River. It was a picturesque spot, and the neighboring territory was considered a sort of summer resort whither a number of persons migrated in hot weather. The lot where the old house stood, on Eighty-fourth street, between Amsterdam avenue and the Boulevard, is at present the only vacant one on the block and contains a tree and the remnants of a stone well from which Poe drank many a time.

DENIED FOR DISSIPATED.

“In the summer of 1843, Poe went to the home of Mr. Brennan, taking with him his invalid wife, Virginia, and her mother, Mrs. Clemm. If Poe’s biographies, which paint him as a dissipated man, are true, then they must refer to his younger days, for Mrs. Brennan invariably denied these charges when they were made in her presence.

“During two years she knew him intimately and never saw him affected by liquor or do aught that evidenced the wild impetuous nature with which he has been accredited. He was the greatest of husbands and devoted to his invalid wife. Frequently when she was weaker than usual, he carried her tenderly from her room to the dinner table and satisfied her every whim.

“Mrs. Brennan was noted for her kind-heartedness and sympathetic nature, and once I heard her say that Poe read ‘The Raven’ to her one evening before he sent it to the ‘Mirror.’

“It was Poe’s custom to wander away from the house in pleasant weather to ‘Mount Tom,’ an immense rock, which may still be seen in Riverside Park, where he would sit alone for hours, gazing out upon the Hudson.

“Other days he would roam through the surrounding woods and, returning in the afternoon, sit in the ‘big room,’ as it used to be called, by a window and work unceasingly with pen and paper, until the evening shadows.

DREAMING DREAMS.

“No doubt it was upon such an evening, when sitting later than usual by the windows, ‘dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before,’ until every one else had retired and the moon hidden her light behind a cloud, that he ‘heard the tapping, as of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.’ He starts and listens for a moment and then flings open the door, anticipating some midnight visitor — but ‘darkness there and nothing more.’ For awhile he peers out into the darkness, but he can see no one and returns to his chair.

“Then again he hears the rapping, somewhat louder than before.” This time the sound apparently comes from the window and he slides open the shutter, ‘when with many a flirt and flutter, in there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.

“Above the door, opening into the hallway, there stood the ‘pallid bust of Palls.’ It was a little plaster cast and occupied a shelf nailed to the door casing. Immediately behind the bust and occupying the space between the top casing and the ceiling, a number of little panes of smoky glass took the place of the partition.

“This bust of Minerva was either removed or broken by one of the Brennan tenants after the family had moved to the city and no trace of it can be found at the present time.

FOND OF CHILDREN.

“Poe was extremely fond of children, and Mrs. O’Beirne used to tell of lying on the floor at his feet and arranging his manuscript. She didn’t understand why he turned the written side toward the floor, and she would reverse it and arrange the pages according to the number upon them.

“Mrs. Brennan was never vexed with Poe, except on one occasion, when he scratched his name on the mantlepiece in his room. It was a very quaint and old-fashioned affair with carved fruit and vines and leaves, and Mrs. Brennan always kept it carefully painted. On the day in question Poe was leaning against the mantlepiece apparently in meditation. Without thinking, he traced his name on the black mantel, and when Mrs. Brennan called his attention to what he was doing he smiled and asked her pardon.

“It seems strange that people will persist in saying that ‘The Raven’ was written at the Poe cottage in Fordham, while it is well known that the author did not move to Fordham until 1846, and the poem appeared in the New York ‘Mirror’ in January, 1845, and was copied the following month in the ‘Review.’”

MANTEL NOW IN BROOKLYN.

The mantel upon which Poe scratched his name now adorns the library fireplace of Mr. William Hemstreet at No. 1332 Bergen street, Brooklyn, who bought it when the Brennan homestead was demolished, about twelve years ago.

Mrs. Manley, a daughter of Patrick Brennan, has the lock from Poe’s chamber door. It is an old-fashioned affair and fully six inches long and five wide. Mrs. Manley took it as a souvenir when the Brennan home was taken down.

The present occupant of the Poe cottage at Fordham makes the assertion that the [column 6:] poem was composed at the latter place, and exhibits to the credulous sightseer the “very window” where Poe wrote his immortal verses.

 


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Notes:

The Poe Society of Baltimore is indebted to Scott Peeples for tracking down and providing a photocopy of this article.

The article was copied in the Morning Post (Raleigh, NC), for May 20, 1900, p. 7. Some recollections by Gen. O’Beirne were recounted by Mary Phillips in her 1926 biography of Poe.

General O’Beirne was James Rowan O’Beirne (1844-1917).

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